Auto Show update 4

 

 

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Ford just knocked everyone’s socks off at the Detroit Show unveiling a Ford GT supercar with an Ecoboost V6 that will produce more than 600 horsepower.

The Blue Oval wanted to make sure that not all the attention today will be on Acura’s showing of its new NSX later this morning.

Beginning production late next year, the GT will be offered in select global markets in time to make Ford’s winning of the 1966 24 hours of Le Mans.

It will be rear-wheel drive with a mid-mounted engine, and makes use of lightweight materials including carbon fiber and aluminum.

“The GT is the ultimate execution of an enthusiast supercar,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president. “GT includes innovations and technologies that can be applied broadly across Ford’s future product portfolio.”

The twin turbo V6 will be paired with a seven-speed dual clutch transaxle, adjustable suspension, and 20-inch wheels. There are upward swinging doors and room for two inside with seats that are integrated directly into the carbon fiber passenger cell. The seats are fixed but the pedals are adjustable as is the steering column.

An F1-style steering wheel integrates all necessary driver controls, creating a stalk less steering column that allows uncluttered access to the transmission paddle-shift controls. A fully digital and configurable instrument cluster provides a wealth of driver-focused data. The display is configurable for multiple driving environments and different driving modes.

“While we hope enthusiasts rejoice about this all-new GT, all Ford customers will benefit from the ultimate performance Ford and its new-generation innovations,” said Nair.

No price or performance data – Yet.

 

 

Detroit Auto Show Update 3

Alfa Romeo Spider

The Alfa 4C Spider made its North American debut this morning after a coming out party at the Paris show last year. It is basically a convertible model of the 4C.

Fiat Chrysler said the drop top will go on sale this summer. It features a 1.75-liter turbo mounted amidships with 237 horsepower and a 0-60 run of just 4.1 seconds. The Alfa roll out in this country has been slow, with the Detroit News reporting that they are on sale at only 88 dealers in this country and demand has far outstripped supply.

 

Detroit Auto Show Update 2

2016 Nissan Titan XD

Nissan announced it does not want to be left behind in the sales battle among full size pickup trucks. This morning, it took the wraps off the 2016 Titan  XD.

It is said to be an all new design available with a Cummins 5.0 V8 Turbo Diesel rated at 310 horsepower with a hefty 555 lb-ft of torque. Maximum towing capacity is set at more than 12,000 pounds when properly equipped. It will also offer an integrated gooseneck hitch engineered into the frame.

The Titan will be sort of an All-American with assembly in Mississippi with engines from Tennessee and Indiana. It is projected to go on sale nationwide late this year.

Inside, there will be the usual wide range of trim options with Zero Gravity seats and a large center console “designed to serve as a mobile workstation.” Nissan said more details will be announced at a future date.

 

Detroit Auto Show Update 1

2015_golf_tsi_4038Ford F-150

A panel of automobile journalists has selected the Volkswagen Golf as the North American Car of the Year and the aluminum Ford F-150 as Truck of the Year.

The Golf topped the Hyundai Genesis and the Ford Mustang for the top auto award. Finalists for Truck of the Year were the Lincoln MKC and the Chevy Colorado, but in the end, Ford took home the award.

“Volkswagen is thrilled to start 2015 with the Golf and the Golf GTI taking home the incredible North American Car of the Year title”, said Michael Horn, CEO, Volkswagen Group of America. Still to come to the Golf lineup is a 292 horsepower, all-wheel drive R, which sold out a pre-order of 500 in less than 11 hours. Also ahead is a TDI Clean Diesel with a 1.8 liter turbo four, and a Sportwagen that goes on sale in the spring. For the year, the Golf was “Das Auto.”

Ford said it was honored to be name Truck of the Year, in “such a strong field of competitors.” The win is the eighth time a Ford vehicle as won Truck/Utility of the Year.

 

 

 

Auto News for Jan. 12 (Detroit Auto Show)

The auto world turns its attention to the City of Detroit today and the big International Auto Show. Please check back frequently for updates on all the major introductions and the naming of the North American Car and Truck of the year that kick things off in the Motor City.

But you don’t have to wait for the show to open to see three new offerings, sort of like Hollywood stars posing for the camera before they lay down the red carpet.

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Volkswagen did not wait for the show to open to show off the Cross Coupe GTE hybrid concept that “shows the future design language for Volkswagen’s North American SUV’s.” The mid-size comes with a V6 plug in hybrid drive with a 276 horsepower 3.6 liter engine with two electric motors plus all-wheel drive. It can cover up to 20 miles in all electric mode while carrying up to 7 passengers. The Cross Coupe closely mirrors the production vehicle that will roll out of VW’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant at the end of next year. It will be warmly welcomed at VW dealers who have been starving for new product to buff up sagging sales in this country.

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And welcome the Avenir, a slick looking concept from Buick, “a flagship sedan exploring progressive design with new levels of passenger well-being and technology integration,” said the maker. The name is French for future, and the Avenir will seat four with a direct-injected V-6 with start/stop technology and a nine speed paddle shift transmission, automatic of course, and all-wheel drive. Buick said it features a 12-inch diagonal color touch screen for its Intelilink infotainment system and a driver recognition feature that automatically syncs all infotainment preferences. It can also access home security cameras with the option to turn on outside lights and close a garage door inadvertently left open. But no, you will still have to manually brush your teeth.

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Then up popped Chevy with the 2016 Volt that it claims is now good for up to 50 miles on just electric power with a total range, including the gas engine, of more than 400 miles. With regular charging, Chevy claims owners can travel more than 1,000 miles on average between gas fill-ups. It will seat five and go on sale in the second half of this year. The standard engine is a 1.5-liter four rated at 101 horsepower and it runs on regular unleaded and a 0-60 run of 8.4 seconds. Charging time is said to about 4.5 hours on a 240 volt system. Still to be determined is whether the new Volt gives rear seat passenger more leg room, one of the demerits of the existing model.

Stick around, because the North American Car and Truck of the year awards are coming up in less than a half hour.

 

Saturday Road Test – Kia Soul EV

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2015 Kia Soul EV

Juiced Hamsters!!

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD – Even at today’s prices, there is something cool about driving around town looking at gas stations, and knowing that you will never have to stop in one.

The car of the week is the all-electric Kia Soul that boasts a range of 93 miles max, something Kia claims is the most of any electric car, sans the Tesla. The Nissan Leaf totals out at 84 miles and the Focus Electric at 76 miles. Quick charging stations will be offered at Kia dealers as the car is offered at dealers outside of the introductory state of California.

Officially it is an all-electric “urban crossover vehicle” aimed at those living in big cities who do not take long driving trips.

There are two charging ports located behind a trap door in the grill. One is a fast charging port that can take as little as a half hour to bring the battery up to 80 percent power. Using a 240 volt outlet a full charge can be accomplished in less than five hours with 24 hours required to get a full charge using the standard 120 volt household current. I can verify that is an accurate claim.

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It is easy to see how things are percolating, charge wise, by the three flashing blue lights on top of the dash. They divide the charging process in thirds, and when all three are not blinking, you are set to rock.

There is also a long list of charging stations available on the center dash mounted screen. Get down to 25 percent juice left, and that familiar synthesized female voice tells you to head to the nearest charging station, and repeats it until you treat the Soul to some electricity. The charger and an extension cord fit nicely under the rear storage compartment floor.

Available only in front wheel drive, the Soul EV is powered by a 109 horsepower electric motor producing a generous 210 lb-ft of torque. Because it is a full electric that torque is available right from start up, and I was surprised how quickly it accelerated from 40 to 70 mph from interstate entrances. Kia puts the 0-60 run at less than 12 seconds with a top speed of about 90 mph, but running flat out will, of course, cut into your range.

Its maker claims 18 to 43 mph comes up in 3.9 seconds and 49 to 74 mph in 9.3 seconds.

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The battery’s location beneath the floor results in a lower center of gravity and only a minor reduction in storage space. Rear seat passengers lose 3.1 inches in leg room but two adults will fit in just fine. Total cargo carrying space comes to 49.5 cubic feet.

In the interest of pedestrian safety, the Soul sounds a series of beeps when in reverse. They sound identical to the ones used in very large dump trunks so those out for a stroll might be a bit surprised to find them coming from a little blue and white compact car.

To further attract the Greens, Kia made use of lots of Bio-based materials inside with plastics derived from cellulose and sugar cane on the door panels, headliner, roof pillars and carpeting. It is nice and bright inside as a result, and a solid argument against the all-black interior seen in too many cars.

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To save power, heat and A/C can directed only at the driver by pushing a button.  A/C is one of the largest energy drains in any electric vehicle but with a wind chill of zero as I write this, how big a deal is that?

There are two models offered – the base and the plus. Both share the same drivetrain including the one speed transmission, Lithium Ion Polymer battery, and other essentials.

The base model starts at $33,700 not including a federal tax rebate of $7,500 and whatever incentives are offered in the few states where the electric Soul is offered. The tested Plus begins at $35,700. Lease deals start at $240 a month.

Move up to the Plus and added to the equipment list are leather trimmed, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, projection style fog lamps and power folding outside mirrors. To calm your range jitters, the remaining battery miles are prominently displayed in the dash panel where the tach would be in a gas powered car. If you look at it only twice an hour, your range anxiety is under control!

With the abundant torque it is a hoot to drive around town, with excellent visibility, and perhaps due to the loveable hamsters, the ability to turn heads. The Caribbean blue/white top exterior made the car feel fresh and new.  On the highway, there is some road and wind noise, but nothing excessive.

It has a solid well-built feel about it and that low center of gravity made for some fun on back country roads, more so than one might expect in an EV. Overall, the Soul EV proved that an electric car doesn’t have to feel cheap, yet can still sell for well under what Elon Musk wants for his juiced up sedan.

But up jumped someone yelling, “Relevancy your honor” citing today’s under $2 a gallon gas prices.

Perhaps with that in mind, Kia has been deliberate in releasing the EV nationwide starting, of course, in California with expansion to Oregon, New York, New Jersey, (can’t see Chris Christie in one) and here in Maryland.

If you are attracted to the Soul EV do arrange for the quickest recharging system you can buy. Then, if you can live with the shorter range of the electric over the gas powered Soul, you will find a very delightful set of wheels that in many ways is environmentally correct.

I remain less than a fan of electrics, feeling that one gets a car for the ability to go where they want to go, when they want to go, for as long as it takes to get there with a minimum of interruption.

But having said that, this remains the best electric car I have driven by a wide margin.

P.S. How cool is the Soul? Pope Francis used one during a visit to South Korea last year.

2015 Soul EV

 

Auto News for Jan. 9

charlie hebdo

On behalf of those of us who have worked in journalism, let me start this morning by saying there are few things in this life more treasured than freedom of the press. Now more than ever, let us do everything we can to ensure this basic right is defended and endures.

Now for today’s auto news:

Honda has been fined $70-million by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for failing to “report deaths, injuries and certain warranty claims to the federal government. “Honda and all of the automakers have a safety responsibility they must live up to – no excuses,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. The two $35 million fines were the maximum amount that NHTSA is allowed to access. Honda said it has resolved this matter and will “move forward to build on the important actions” it has taken to address “past shortcomings in early warning reporting.” The fine is the largest that the agency has levied on an automaker. Honda admitted last year it failed to tell NHTSA about 1,729 incidents involving deaths or injuries in its products.

Volvo S60 Cross Country

Volvo has released a picture of the S60 Cross Country that it will unveil next week at the Detroit show. Here in the states it will be offered with all-wheel drive. Volvo said the S60 is its “first premium sedan with the same level of capability … of the cross country wagons.” We will learn more next week. The first press day of the Detroit extravaganza will be next Monday, so please plan on checking back here for frequent updates as the covers come off.

GM CEO Mary Barra believes the strong auto sales figures of 2014 will carry over to the New Year. Barra told reporters in Detroit that light vehicle sales could top 17-million this year, something that has not occurred since 2001. She attributed it to the strength of the labor market, better job security and the recovery in home prices that has consumers “feeling pretty good about the future.” Barra said younger and first-time buyers are returning to the market, a portion of the market considered of utmost importance to automakers.

GM is offering “The Engine Build Experience” for customers of its very hot Z06 Corvette. You can literally watch your engine being made in the company of an assembly technician along with a personalized engine plaque identifying the owner and the date of the engine build. Customers can also watch their car being assembled in a separate program organized by the National Corvette Museum. Best of all you then get to drive it home!

Related to that, Dodge has released a video that shows how its Viper is made. You can see it at:

driveSRT.com/2015/viper/documentary

It is called, “Viper: DNA of a Supercar.” Dodge said it takes 140 to 160 hours to hand paint each car. Did I mention they are kind of fast?

 

 

Auto News for Jan. 8

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You don’t have to wait until Monday to see what the 2016 Toyota Tacoma looks like. Toyota released a picture this morning of the truck that will do battle with the new GM’ mid-size pickups. The official unveiling and further details will be released on Monday at the Detroit auto show.

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Scion announced it will add its first ever sedan to its lineup. This one will be introduced in April at the New York auto show “along with the all new Scion IM,” the company said. The IM is the name of a production version of the IM concept car displayed at the L.A. show in November. That accounts for two of the three new models Scion will bring to market in the next three years. Pictured is the IM concept at the L.A. show.

Ford has raised its first quarter dividend by 20 percent to 15 cents a share. It said the board approved increase is consistent with a plan to provide attractive returns to shareholders.

InsideEVs.com said there was a 23 percent increase in the sale of plug-in vehicles last year for a total of 119,710. The top seller was the Nissan Leaf followed by the Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius. It will be interesting to see if this holds in this era of falling gas prices.

 

December 2014 Auto Sales (refilling) Jan. 7 news below

Auto News for Jan 6

(refiling – Jan 7 news below)

For virtually all of the automakers it was the kind of year that the bean counters dream about with December doing its best to buff up the bottom line. It was the best year since 2006 and some are predicting the news will only get better this year.

(Pictured is the Toyota Camry that remains the nation’s top selling car.)

As for the Detroit three, Fiat Chrysler was the biggest gainer last month with sales remaining strong for its Ram Truck and Jeep brand, enough to lift overall sales by 20 percent. For the full year FCA said sales were up 16 percent, its best showing since 2006.

Not far behind was General Motors that posted a 19.3 percent sales increase for December its best showing for the month in seven years. It said Chevrolet was strong from pickups and SUV’s to cars and crossovers and the Corvette Stingray had its highest December sales ever. GM’s chief economist predicted even higher industry sales this year.

Despite low inventories due to the changeover to the 2015 model, Ford said its F-Series truck remained the best-selling vehicle in all the land for the 33rd straight year. With the new truck just now rolling into dealers, Ford sales rose only one percent in December. Demand was strong for the Escape and the Fusion and Mustang posted its best December sales since 2006.

It was another big month for Subaru with overall sales up 21 percent, and that was the biggest percentage gain among all auto makers. Demand was strong for the Legacy, Forester, WRX, Outback and XV Crosstrek. Suby has now set sales records in each of the last six years.

But not every automaker enjoyed success last year. Sales were off 10 percent at Volkswagen and down 15.6 percent for Mini.

On the brighter side, Toyota said sales rose 12.7 percent last month and 6.2 percent for the full year. Its Camry remained the best- selling car in America for the 13th straight year.

Honda reported a one percent sales gain for the year, and 1.4 percent in December. Acura did its part with a 13.6 percent monthly sales increase and the company’s CR-V remained the top selling small sport utility.

Analysts said people feel good about the economy, and constantly falling gasoline prices, the report coming out on a day when crude prices dropped below $50 a barrel for the first time in more than 5 years.

Elsewhere, sales rose nearly 7 percent last month at Nissan; Hyundai reported a 2 percent increase, while Kia bragged about a 35.6 percent surge from December a year ago. It said demand was driven by the Optima and Soul models.

 

It was also a good month at BMW Group with sales up 9.5 percent overall thanks to demand for the 3 and 4 series and the X5.

Calendar year sales rose 7.7 percent at Mazda, its best result since 1994. December sales were also strong up 9 percent and the company’s best December since 2014. The CX-5 recorded its best ever sales year, and of course, just over the horizon is the new MX-5 Miata.

Mitsubishi said 2014 sales rose nearly 25 percent while December marked the tenth consecutive month of year over year sales increases driven by the Outlander Sport.

In the luxury car race, Audi, Lincoln, and Mercedes registered sales increases last month, but Cadillac sales fell 11 percent.